We recently sat down with Steven G. Feifer, DEd, author of the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™) and Feifer Assessment of Mathematics™ (FAM™) for an interview to discuss how to use cognitive neuroscience to better understand why students struggle in school. This is the second part of a two-part interview. Did you miss Part 1? Catch up here. How do the FAR and FAM go beyond just using an aptitude/achievement discrepancy perspective? SF: The FAR and FAM represent a more ecologically valid way to understand the core psychological processes involved with both reading and mathematics. Many psychologists are used to measuring executive functioning, working memory, visual perception, and processing speed using stand-alone instruments, and then must clinically bridge these results into the worlds of reading and math. In other words, how does poor performance on executive functioning tasks impact the ability to read on grade level? These can be very difficult questions to answer. The FAR and the FAM seek to measure these psychological constructs while the student is actually engaged in the academic skill itself, allowing the examiner to directly determine the impact of each neurocognitive process on the academic skill itself. Typical achievement tests are important to determine where a student is functioning with respect to a nationally normed sample, but the FAR and FAM were designed to explain why. This is the key to really bringing back the “I” into an “IEP,” so practitioners can more readily inform intervention decision making. Do the instruments give you a reading/math level? SF: Both the FAR and FAM give you an overall composite score, but the true value of these instruments lies within the factor scores. We chose grade-based norms due to the variability of ages in each grade and thought it was only fair to compare a student’s performance with students in the same grade-level curriculum. In other words, it did not seem fair to compare a 10-year-old in the 3rd grade with a 10 year-old in the 5th grade with two more years of formal instruction. Academic skills should be based upon the current grade level of the child, especially when we have an educational system where 43 of 50 states follow a common core curriculum. If practitioners are uncomfortable with grade-based norms, there is a conversion by age proxy table included. Do you need a neuropsychology background to administer and/or interpret any of these instruments? SF: I think you need a reading or math background to administer and interpret these instruments, which is why these are B-level qualification instruments.  This means most teachers can readily administer the FAR and the FAM. It is not necessary to understand the neuroscience behind each learning disorder subtype, but it is necessary to understand the learning dynamics involved with each skill. For instance, most educators readily understand the role of phonics, fluency, orthography, and comprehension in reading. The FAR can catalogue the relative strengths and weaknesses within each of these processing areas to best inform intervention decision making. To learn more about the FAR or the FAM, visit their product pages.
We recently sat down with Steven G. Feifer, DEd, author of the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™) and Feifer Assessment of Mathematics™ (FAM™) for an interview to discuss how to use cognitive neuroscience to better understand why students struggle in school. This is the first part of a two-part interview. Come back next week for the conclusion.   What influence did neuroscience and research in this area have on your work in test development? Steven Feifer: I have spent most of my career as a school psychologist trying to coalesce the fields of neuropsychology and education. I suppose it stemmed from my utter frustration in trying to explain learning simply through the lens of an IQ test score. After all, when was the last time somebody wrote a meaningful goal and objective on an IEP because a psychologist said a child’s Full Scale IQ was 94? Why was an instrument like the FAR needed? SF: The FAR was created for a number of reasons. First, I am especially grateful to PAR for recognizing the need for an educational assessment tool based upon a neuropsychological theory: the gradiental model of brain functioning. Second, I think the FAR represents a new wave of assessment instruments that does not simply document where a student is achieving, but explains why. This allows practitioners to better inform intervention decision making. Third, with the reauthorization of IDEA in 2004, school psychologists and educational diagnosticians no longer have to use a discrepancy model to identify a learning disability. However, most examiners are a bit leery about switching to a processing strengths and weaknesses model because of the sheer complexity and loose structure of this approach. The FAR identifies the direct processes involved with reading and makes the process easy without having to rely on a cross battery approach. Lastly, many states have now required schools to screen for dyslexia in grades K-2. The FAR Screening Form is ideal to function in this regard. How did using a brain-based perspective guide you when developing the subtests and subtypes for the FAR and the FAM? SF: I have conducted more than 600 professional workshops worldwide to both educators and psychologists. Most educators readily understand that there are different kinds of reading disorders, and therefore different kinds of interventions are necessary. By discussing reading, math, or written language from a brain-based educational perspective, I try to point out specific pathways in the brain that support phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and other attributes inherent in the reading process. I also illustrate what a dyslexic brain looks like before an intervention and then after an intervention. Cognitive neuroscience greatly validates the work of our educators and reading specialists. In addition, cognitive neuroscience also provides the foundation for various subtypes of reading disorders based upon the integrity of targeted neurodevelopmental pathways. Come back next week for the second part of this interview!  
Interested in learning more about the new Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales, Second Edition (RIAS-2)? Now you can enroll in a free training course on the RIAS-2 through PAR’s Training Portal. Whether you have already purchased the RIAS-2 and want to learn more about it or are looking for more information to help you make your purchase decision, this training course will give you a quick overview of the product, explain what changes were made in this edition, and provide insight into scoring and administration. And, best of all, the Training Portal is always available, so you can get training on your schedule. The RIAS-2 can be used to assess intelligence and its major components in individuals 3 to 94 years. To access the Training Portal, use your parinc.com username and password to log in. Don’t have a free account? Register now. Training courses are also available on the Vocabulary Assessment Scales™ (VAS™), the Test of General Reasoning Ability™ (TOGRA™), the Reynolds Adaptable Intelligence Test™ (RAIT™), the Academic Achievement Battery™ (AAB™), and more!
Approximately 14 million Americans have alcohol disorders. As prevalent as the disorder is, much can be done to assist those who are dependent on alcohol, and their loved ones. In 1999, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration partnered to create a community-based intervention to target alcohol abuse: National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD). Screening is held annually on the first Thursday of the first full week of April. For 2016, screening will be held on April 7. NASD’s objectives include:
  • Educating the public on the effect of alcohol on overall health
  • Administering anonymous, free alcohol screenings to the public
  • Providing referrals for those whose screening determined their drinking is at an unhealthy level
Thousands of organizations nationwide offer either on-site and online screenings to college students, military personnel, and the general public. Each organization receives the appropriate resources to help them conduct the program, such as videos, posters, educational handouts, and screening forms. On the day of screening, a 10-question screening scale is administered that was developed to identify those who consume alcohol at hazardous or harmful levels. Those who score above a specified cut-off score are referred for further evaluation or treatment. Those interested can get started by visiting the website, How Do You Score? There they can take an anonymous self-assessment or search for on-site screening locations, which are located in screening centers across the United States. Those who are screened will be asked a series of questions to determine whether symptoms of alcohol abuse are present and whether medical help is required. At the end of the session, they receive immediate feedback and will be provided resources to assist them in getting the help they need. At-risk drinking can be identified based on how much a person drinks on any given day, and how often a person has a heavy drinking day. In general, the following limits identify at-risk drinking:
  • Men: More than 4 drinks in a day or 14 per week
  • Women: More than 3 drinks in a day or 7 per week
As with any illness, early detection is the key to increasing chances of swift recovery. Alcohol abuse is misunderstood and is, therefore, often not considered a legitimate disorder that can be treated. National recognition goes a long way toward educating the public and reducing the negative effects of alcohol abuse for those affected and their families. Share your thoughts on alcohol abuse risks and screening. PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!